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Interview with Simon Cowell

Aired April 5, 2011 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, he's vain, he's mean, and he put me on television. The man behind "American Idol", "X Factor" and "America's Got Talent", Simon Cowell.


SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "THE X FACTOR": This actually was my worst nightmare in the world.


MORGAN: Tonight an absolutely riveting hour with the multimillionaire impresario.


MORGAN: You're a monkey.

COWELL: OK. I'm a monkey.


MORGAN: An interview like you've never seen before with him.


MORGAN: Do you think you're a bit of a sex god?



MORGAN: Simon Cowell for the hour. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

You know Simon Cowell from "American Idol", America's --

COWELL: Wasn't it great?


MORGAN: Can you not --

COWELL: Start again. Start again.

MORGAN: You're not in your lair now. You're in mine.

COWELL: Lower voice. One more time. OK. Three, two, one.

MORGAN: I'll continue, actually. Before I was so rudely interrupted. I'm just going to continue because actually I did that perfectly.

He's obviously -- he's not one of the most astute guests in America. He's a serial pain in the backside whose only great decision was to hire me on "America's Got Talent" and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to have Simon Cowell here apart from the fact that I know it's going to cause you enormous displeasure.

COWELL: Likewise.

MORGAN: To be in my studio.


COWELL: I mean total utter torture. As we were just waiting, I'm looking around thinking this actually was my worst nightmare in the world. I'm sitting on your show. And then you say things like as a favor we'll help you throw out --


MORGAN: Well, you had created a monster. I mean, without you I wouldn't really be sitting here.

COWELL: What was the text message I sent to you when we had the ratings -- I think it was year one of "America's Got Talent."

MORGAN: No, the key thing for me, I remember, I'll never forget this, is when "America's Got Talent," you flew me out here, and no one ever heard about me, and you took this big chance, which I'm genuinely grateful for, thanks to the large billboards I actually put outside your house.

And I remember you sent me a text message and it was just after the show hit number one on NBC and you sent this message, you said, I feel like Dr. Frankenstein.


COWELL: True. The monster.


COWELL: but I'm seriously, seriously thrilled to be here, Piers.

MORGAN: Of course you are.

COWELL: No, really I am.

MORGAN: Which aspect of me landing --


COWELL: Actually it's about me. Back to me, come on.


MORGAN: "X Factor."


MORGAN: Why should we be so excited this in America? I know why Britain got very excited. But what's the big selling point to you? What makes this different to "Idol"?

COWELL: It's -- you know, it's difficult to say until you actually make the show. I mean genuinely when you make a reality show, for me as a producer there's a point where you've got to have to stand back. And therefore I shouldn't know what it's going to be like, the audience shouldn't know, you just film it and you hope it's going to be as crazy as possible.

MORGAN: What are the key -- if you're an American viewer, what are the key differences between this and "Idol"? Why is this a different show?

COWELL: You can be 12. You can be older. No age limit. We've had people 100 years old auditioning on this show. And we audition groups. And then in the end the judges get to mentor.

MORGAN: But the big change you made in Britain after a few years was to bring in an audience for the audition process, which "Idol" doesn't have. Is that going to be a key weapon do you think in your ratings and so on "X Factor America"?

COWELL: Well, you're quite. It makes it different. I mean it wasn't that we did it just to make it different from "Idol." I was filming the show in Scotland. I think it was two years ago. And it was the same process. Desk, three judges, horrible room, this contestant came in, and this is literally within one hour, and I stopped the show.

I said I actually can't do this anymore. It's just -- it's too predictable. It's too sterile. So we all flew back to London the following day, the producers came in, and I said I want to shoot this in arenas.

MORGAN: I'm going to play you a little clip from "X Factor."

COWELL: Let me finish the end of the story.

MORGAN: No, I'm going to come to the end of that story in a moment.


MORGAN: So I want to show you what people are talking about.


COWELL: I'm going to say yes. The best first audition I have ever heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Simon, you're better than Jesus.


COWELL: Can we take that last bit out? It's embarrassing.


COWELL: Well, you see what it's like. I mean look, it's supposed to feel -- the idea was that we would re-create what their first concert would look like, so for people who never auditioned in their lives, they walk out, instead of walking into like a hotel room with the three of us, you walk out, you've got 3,000 or 4,000 screaming kids there.

And it was supposed to make it a bit more exciting and to create the atmosphere. For some people, I mean it was just a disaster. And then one of the guys you saw in that clip, Daniel Johnson, it shows you what can happen when an audience get behind you. And he turned into a performer. I mean sensational.

MORGAN: It was an extraordinary moment and I don't think you would have gotten that in the room. So I think the -- the addition of the audience and also for you in the end you're the evil Svengali producer as well. And I don't mean for the show. I mean as a music producer.


MORGAN: You get a chance to see what these guys are like when they get a big audience. So you can see who are the real performers, right?

COWELL: Well, look, where they start is where you want them to end up. You want them to be able to do concerts and perform in front of millions of people. And that's what you look for. You look for somebody who can really use the crowd well. And there were times, many, many times when we said no where you could feel the audience about to turn on you. And they've changed our minds. It's a completely different atmosphere. But I liked it.

MORGAN: I've known you a long time. I was with you a lot through the process of you deciding whether or not to leave "Idol" and to do "X Factor". I know you agonized over that.

Talk me through your mindset though that period, because I know you weren't sure what to do with your career. You were offered this -- I'm not sure you even want to say, but I know it's a stupendous sum of money to stay on "Idol." A lot of people in your position would have taken the money.

Why didn't you? Why did you take this huge gamble? COWELL: Because I made, you know, a lot of money. It's no -- it's no secret over the nine years I was on the show. I mean I was really well-looked after. But my love always was producing, you know? I love producing shows. And so when you're on a show where other people are making decisions you don't necessarily agree with it, after a while you start to feel like a passenger.

Your energy comes down, the show's energy comes down, and to be fair I thought they needed to be -- to be rid of me, to be honest with you, because I was thinking about doing the show for two years.

MORGAN: When did you get bored being -- what was a highly paid performing monkey in the end?



COWELL: But I didn't quite think of it that way.

MORGAN: No, you know what I mean. You had no control. So you're like a monkey in a zoo. You were the best monkey.

COWELL: By the way, I've heard we can't use that word.


MORGAN: No, we can.

COWELL: Can we?

MORGAN: I'm sorry, you don't have any control.

COWELL: OK. I'm just trying to look after you.

MORGAN: So this is awkward now because that's actually -- definitely a (INAUDIBLE).

COWELL: Is it?

MORGAN: You're a monkey.

COWELL: OK. I'm a monkey. Fine.


MORGAN: But you know what I mean. I know from "Britain's Got Talent"" and "X Factor". I've been watching you on "Britain's Got Talent", you have complete control of that show. "America's Got Talent". You're all over it like a rash. You're ringing at 4:00 in the morning -- you have complete control. On "Idol" you didn't have that control.

COWELL: That was the problem. Look, I've always believed that these shows become an extension of your personality. So there were many, many times when I was on "Idol" where I felt I just don't want to make this show. There's nothing wrong with the show. It's just I want to make something different. And after a while I just got so frustrated.

I had a fantastic relationship, I still have, with FOX. My belief, funny that was, was that once I left the whole show would reinvent itself. They'd have a new energy, they would become more competitive because we're bringing our show on. So for FOX it was like win-win.

MORGAN: You've taken a huge punt here on you. I mean, a lot of this I would say centers around the Cowell brand. You've taken it out of this huge show and you're putting it all on "X Factor." It's a gamble, isn't it?

COWELL: It has to be a gamble.

MORGAN: Even for a super confident guy like you. Has any part of you contemplated the unthinkable?

COWELL: Always. Every show I've ever made, by the way. You know, we've worked with each other long enough. And I've sat there with you on "Britain's Got Talent" where I just feel like jumping off a bridge because I think the whole show is a disaster, it's not going to work, and it's depressing, and then somebody walks in an hour later and it's different.

But if you don't have that fear that it's going to go wrong, you're going to get complacent, you're going to lose your edge, your sharpness. So I like the team around me to feel like me, which is it could go horribly wrong.

MORGAN: People ask me what's he like to work with, you know, and I say it's funny because a lot of the time you can be very difficult, you're quite a tough taskmaster, you are permanently I would say refusing to let anybody rest on their laurels on the show.

You keep everyone on their toes. And, you know, you're like all mavericks I guess in the sense you change your mind a lot and then you suddenly go with something. And, you know, you are -- you know I hate to use the word genius -- I'm not going to. I'll use another word.

COWELL: You can use it.


COWELL: No, no. It's locked.

MORGAN: No. But when it comes to genius, and people say what's his real talent, I say well, the genius of Simon Cowell is your ability to guess what the public is going to like. Would you accept that?

COWELL: Well, thank you. No. I think what it is, is that I know what I like and I genuinely make those decisions. Every show I've ever, you know, produced essentially it's the show I want to watch myself. And, you know, that goes back to the "Idol" point was, it was a great show and it was doing really, really well, but I wanted to make a slightly -- I would want to watch myself a slightly different type of show. And that's -- because I was, you know, leaving "Idol," going back "X Factor," I was also doing "Britain's Got Talent." It's too much. You know? And --

MORGAN: Do you think -- I've read an interview with you once where you said the -- your ability to guess the public mood on something is driven by the fact you live a very average kind of life in terms of taste, whether it's music, books, television, food.


MORGAN: You're kind of an average kind of guy despite all the money and power and fame.

COWELL: Yes. I know when something is well made. I know when something is interesting. And I get bored really, really quickly. So when I make these shows I'm trying to make something which nobody has ever seen before hopefully that it's unpredictable.

And I can see in my head what I want "X Factor" to look like. But like I said, you cannot describe it until you actually see it. But it will be different.

MORGAN: Going to take a short break. When we come back, I want to get your real feelings on "American Idol" and its judges.



COWELL: When everyone asks who's going to be -- who's going to replace me, who's going to be the next judge, the truth is you guys are the judge of this show. And you've done an incredible job over the years.


MORGAN: That of course was the end of an era, Simon Cowell's last "American Idol" ever. Simon is back with me now.

What was it like for you that moment, honestly, when you realized that was it, you were walking away from the show that had made you a global superstar?

COWELL: I got really emotional, I mean genuinely. I didn't think I would. The fact that the guys had organized it for me and the audience and -- that's really what you walk away from is actually great memories. And -- because people ask me now what it's like, you know, when you watch the show.

I still feel like I'm a part of the show. You know I was there when the show was sold, you know, years ago in the UK and you remember the time Kelly Clarkson emerged into a star or Carrie Underwood walked in the audition room. I mean, you know, you were part of what made it successful. So I still like watching it occasionally.

MORGAN: Any tears that night?

COWELL: I kind of welled up a bit, yes.

MORGAN: It looked to me, I mean knowing you as I do, I thought you might go here.

COWELL: Yes. It was really, really weird. And all those memories. Like I said to you earlier on, you pinch yourself and you go, god, I can remember coming to L.A. 20, 30 years ago, you know, practically on one of those, you know, Star Bus things, totally in awe of being in Hollywood. And then you remind yourself now you're making shows here. I me, it's a buzz.

MORGAN: at do you really think of the new "Idol" lineup? Because you're an incredibly competitive man. I mean you and I have had bets on ants going up a window pane. So --

COWELL: And I won.

MORGAN: Yes. I'm not -- I read recently no, I don't watch it. I don't believe that. I believe you must watch it.

COWELL: I started watching it when I came over here because it's completely different when you watch it in the UK and you watch it here and you're part of the right time zone and things.

MORGAN: Come on, good, bad. Be Simon the critic, be Simon the --

COWELL: Honestly, it is a better show than last year. I genuinely do. I think what they've got is that -- it feels to me that they' got their energy back, that they're confident, they're competitive, and I said to everybody on my show, I said you think that "Idol" is going to be the same as last year, think again. They're going to be working 10 times as hard as I would, and I think -- I think it's a good show.

MORGAN: I mean what they've definitely got, they have a chemistry with the new judges together. That didn't seem to be evident last season. The Ellen thing just didn't seem to work.

COWELL: Yes, that's true. I mean it's interesting you say that because, you know, I always think of "Idol" really as me, Paula, and Randy, you know? And I think when other people were brought in and Paula wasn't there it was to me like being on a different show. And because it was my last show and I'd announced I was leaving, weird atmosphere on those last few weeks.

MORGAN: Did you think it was a mistake to get rid of Paula?

COWELL: Certainly. Yes. I didn't get rid of her. I mean they just couldn't agree on a deal with her. But it was never same show. I mean me, Randy and Paula had this unbelievable chemistry and that's what I always think of, you know, as "Idol." MORGAN: What do you think of Steven Tyler and J. Lo?

COWELL: Good. Yes. I like Steven. I mean, I think where they're being clever is, unlike me, when I put you on "America's Got Talent," you know, better (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MORGAN: Another great moment of your life. Well, I remember what you said to me, Piers, I need somebody who's evil, arrogant, obnoxious, and your name immediately sprang to mind.

COWELL: Yes, I mentioned the word (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And not many choices.


COWELL: But no, they -- I think, you know, Steven's got his own personality, Jennifer's a star, Randy suddenly sort of turned into a bit more like me and I think he always wanted to do that.

MORGAN: Does that make you laugh?

COWELL: Hilarious. Yes. I never tried to make my show mean. It was supposed to be funnier rather than mean.

MORGAN: You just say some of the meanest things ever seen on American television.

COWELL: No, and tell you what, coming from you, not intentionally. But you know what we're like. We have a different sense of humor.


COWELL: You know? We look at things in a different way. I like things to be a bit more extreme, a bit more crazy, and I always felt with the "Idol" producers they want it to be a bit more homely and safe. So I think for them now they're very, very happy because they can make the show they want to make now, and then I can make the show I want to make.

MORGAN: Will you be a different character on "X Factor" as the one we saw on "Idol"?


MORGAN: I can't imagine it. I always said if you would transfer, that's what he's really like. You thought of that.

COWELL: No, but that's -- I was going to say that. I think that, you know, you can't go on one of these shows and put on an act. I mean if somebody horrific is singing in front of you, I can't sit there and go, take a few more lessons and come back next year, everything is going to be great.

I'm like put this person out of their misery or it makes me laugh. But I do like the -- I like things to be really, really extreme, and I like it to be slightly chaotic, and I like it to be controversial.

MORGAN: Going to take another break now. When we come back, I want to ask you what's your primary motivation. Is it fame, power, or money?

COWELL: Well, I can tell you now. It's money. Forget about the break.


MORGAN: We'll break anyway. A cup tea now.



COWELL: This was like something out of "Star Wars." That was hideous. That was the worst audition. You're ruining this for yourself. No confidence or self-belief whatsoever. It's like an episode of "Star Trek."


MORGAN: Watch out, America. That's just a bit of what you can expect from Simon "I'm not mean" Cowell on "The X Factor" just coming this way in the fall. And Simon is my special guest tonight.

COWELL: Should we go back to the fame and power?

MORGAN: Yes. Let me ask you that. I mean --

COWELL: OK. I think it has to be powerful without money because that would work.


COWELL: I've got all the power in the world but I'm broke. So --

MORGAN: I think the more interesting question for you is not the power thing. It's more actually fame versus money. Because I think you love the fame as well. When I watch you walking out in front of 4,000 screaming people, mainly women throwing nickers at you and stuff like that, that's when I see you at your most energized and self --

COWELL: Yes, but you wouldn't do it for nothing, would you?

MORGAN: No. I agree. But if I could give you one. You could be famous, rich, powerful or successful, which would you be? You can't be more than one.


MORGAN: Really?

COWELL: Yes, for sure. MORGAN: Over being famous.


MORGAN: Thirteen years ago you were completely lost, gone. No money. You had five pounds, $7 left in your hand. You use it for a taxi back to your parents', and your career in the record business had just come to a sudden shuddering halt.

And here you are 13 years later, you're worth hundreds of millions of dollars, life's taken a huge turn upwards. But I get the sense with you that what happened to you 13 years ago still defines you now.

COWELL: Yes. I mean, it wasn't the best of times, but then again, when I look back on it, it wasn't the worst of times. You know because I think particularly here in Hollywood where most people get it wrong is they're afraid of losing what they've got. They're just terrified of losing their fame, as you said power, money.

But actually once you've lost it, you can always get it back again. I mean, it's not the end of the world. I mean, being ill is worse. So because I've actually faced what are most people's worst fears and recovered from it, it's not as bad as you think. You know?

I didn't lose my confidence. My friends are still my friends. I've lived with my parents. And I just saw it as a challenge that I've got to get myself back on my feet again.

MORGAN: What advice did your parents give you then?

COWELL: They were really -- you know, honest to god, they were just cool about it. You know? They were parents, they just, you know, wanted to look after me, lived with them for a while. My dad lent me some money to pay the bank, then eventually managed to pay my dad back.

You know it was what any parent would do. But like I said it's -- it wasn't the worst time of my life. And actually, when I look back on it now I still smile because I bought this beat-up old British sports car, worked 18 hours a day.

I was so determined, Piers, just to get it right this time because I knew when I got it wrong. So now I find it much easier to deal with things.

MORGAN: If that wasn't the worst time in your life, what was?

COWELL: When my dad died was the worst time in my life, as you know.


COWELL: You and I discussed that.

MORGAN: Yes. COWELL: I mean it was just -- that, you know, like getting ill, losing a parent or losing, you know, somebody close to you, that's the worst that can ever happen in your life. You know all the things that I worry about now, just trivial. I mean, you know, even the whole kind of "Idol", "X Factor" thing.

I laugh about it because it's such a high-class problem -- my show is better than your show. It's like we both got a show.


COWELL: What's the problem?

MORGAN: It's really like Colin Firth and the (INAUDIBLE) and the fountain in "Bridget Jones."

COWELL: Exactly.

MORGAN: Fighting, you know?

COWELL: Exactly. Over what? I mean the fact we're here, we can do this is fantastic.

MORGAN: I've talked to you about this before but you raised it there, it's incredibly poignant day in your life, which is also the saddest day, the day you had this huge number-one hit and then you rang your parents to tell them, you'd always ring your dad and your mom and whatever, and you've discovered that your dad had died that day. So you had this extraordinarily bittersweet day.


MORGAN: A great triumph in the morning and terrible tragedy afterwards. What was that day like for you when you look back on it?

COWELL: I can't lie. Worst day of my life. You know, horrible, horrible time then over the years since. You know? I'm thankful for all the support and guidance he gave me, and like I said, it gives you a sense of perspective.

MORGAN: What was the best advice he gave you?

COWELL: Best advice. He actually said something to me, and this was a long, long time ago where he said to me -- because he was -- he was successful, my dad, when he ran this company. And he said everybody around you has an invisible sign on their head which says, "make me feel important," and what I understood from that was is that you've got to recognize that actually everyone around you wants to be recognized, wants to be appreciated, and you can get -- particularly when I do what I do now, you can get very (INAUDIBLE) where you just forget everyone around you, everyone who's worked hard.

And I try and remember that when I make a show is that everyone's playing a part in it. That's why I don't put my name, for instance, on the shows. I didn't like this "created by" nonsense because the show is created truthfully by 500 people every week. MORGAN: Your mom is an extraordinary character.


MORGAN: Who I've known for quite a few years now. I love her dearly. She is probably the only woman I know who actually has any kind of control over you, isn't she?

COWELL: We fight. I mean, she was round the other day, and I said something to her, it was a joke, and she stood up, and she said, I'm not going to say what I was about to say. I said, mom, it was a joke. So then she sits down. Then the two of us sulk.


COWELL: And eventually one of us has to say sorry but you don't want to be the one --

MORGAN: What was it about?

COWELL: Honestly, I can't remember, Piers, but I'm now 12 years old, I'm not going to say sorry. She got to say sorry to me. And she's thinking the same thing. It is -- the effect she has on me is absolutely hysterical.

MORGAN: You're quite a mommy's boy, aren't you?

COWELL: Well, not exactly, no. But I --

MORGAN: I think you are. When you're in England, you have Sunday lunch with her almost every Sunday, don't you?

COWELL: Well, she comes up to me. And I drove down there recently. I called her out because I really wanted my mom to cook me lunch. And I said I'm going to come down tomorrow for lunch. She said, great, well, book a hotel. I said, no, I want your lunch. So eventually she did cook for me. But I like those days.

MORGAN: But she's a tough cookie, she's used to world of show business. What does she -- has she been critical of you? What does she say to you?

COWELL: You know what, I think it's just -- when you really know somebody, Piers, I mean like your parents, whatever you do, it's great, right? But there's a sort of -- there's degrees of enthusiasm, you know, like what do you think of the show, yes, it was quite, quite good, which means it was diabolical.

Or the other way around, she's phoning you or her phone's engaged because she's on the phone to all of your friends. That's when you know you've had a big show.


MORGAN: Did you say something despicable to her when you were a kid, didn't you? She come down the stairs dressed for the night and you just said something awful --

COWELL: She looks like a dog --

MORGAN: Poodle --

COWELL: Well, she had this awful coat and matching hat or something --

MORGAN: Even at the ages of four or five you were --


COWELL: -- the difference is most people would have thought it. I said it, OK. And that's probably the -- that's why I always think on this show is what people say to me -- They go, "God you said exactly what I think." And I go, "Well, that doesn't make it any better." I just say it.

MORGAN: When we come back, I'm going to ask you if there's anything you've regretted saying on television -- properly regretted.

COWELL: I could tell you now. "You've got the job." I'm being serious.


COWELL: Yes, that would be fun. Come on and say cool.

MORGAN: Simon Cowell is back with me now. Simon, what do you make of the modern star, when you look at what's happening with Lindsay Lohan, with Charlie Sheen, with Christina Aguilera the other day? There's a lot of stars going off the rails in various ways. Has it always been like that, or is there a kind of new --


COWELL: Is it going to happen to us?

MORGAN: I hope not. It may already be happening to us. We just haven't got caught.

COWELL: Exactly.

MORGAN: What -- what do you make of it? Is it the -- is the intense attention now from the Internet, from TMZ, from -- has the game changed for celebrities?

COWELL: I was -- I was talking to a friend of mine last year where we had this conversation where everything got a bit bleak last year. And there's sort of a bit of a carry over. Where I -- I asked him, "Do you know anybody who's successful and happy? And we actually -- over the age of 50 or 60, we couldn't think of anyone.

I don't know what it is. There's a mood in the air right now, and hopefully that's going to change soon, where everybody starts to take themselves a bit too seriously is part of it.

MORGAN: Didn't you get offered some huge six figure sum by a guy in a restaurant in L.A. once?

COWELL: Yes, he offered me I think it was 150,000 grand to criticize him bonking his wife. Now, the crazy part of the story is I said no.

MORGAN: Why wouldn't you do that?

COWELL: Because -- no. I mean--


COWELL: If you're watching, I'll even do it for 50,000 dollars, OK?

MORGAN: And was it going to be that night. I mean, you eventually all just go from the restaurant back to the boudoir and you --

COWELL: The what?

MORGAN: -- the boudoir.

COWELL: The bedroom.

MORGAN: Yes, and you'd be positioned on your thrown presumably, and you'd be --

COWELL: Not my thrown, darling, a chair.

MORGAN: With your -- with your red buzzer or --

COWELL: I -- maybe I just -- I didn't know them that well. Given the fact that he really was taking it quite seriously, and I knew I would laugh, I just went, "No, this is too -- too crazy." But I genuinely regret it now.

MORGAN: And the other offer that I thought you must regret by now was the -- the huge commercial offer you had to do a major tie out with a company.

COWELL: It's a brilliant story. My agent, who you know, Alan Berger (ph), is a really, really nice guy. And he called me up and he went, "I've got some great news for you, Simon." "What's that?" "You've been offered a million dollars for a commercial." "How many days work?" "A day."

And I went, "OK." He said, "But there's some bad news." "What's the bad news?" "It's Viagra."

And I was trying to work out whether it was a compliment or an insult. But--

MORGAN: Why have they targeted you? I mean, have they heard anything on the grapevine? Is -- COWELL: Well, no. I'm putting a positive spin on it. I kind of thought --

MORGAN: Can there be one? I mean --

COWELL: Yes. This is -- I am the guy every guy wants to be. So if you take Viagra, it's going to be as big as mine or something like that. But I said no.

MORGAN: Do you think you're a bit of a sex god?

COWELL: A sex god -- boudoir. What is happening to you?

MORGAN: Let's take the boy out of the tabloids.

COWELL: A sex god?

MORGAN: I just wondered do you look in the mirror sometimes and think, "Whoa"--


MORGAN: "Looking good today."

COWELL: Yes. Did you do that today.

MORGAN: I always do that.

COWELL: No seriously?


COWELL: You -- you know fully well, Piers, that the best form of Viagra is be on TV. Right? Suddenly you become more attractive -- in fact much more attractive, and girls will like you more.

MORGAN: Do you care that it's shallow?

COWELL: I like it. I do. I like it. It kind of, you know, makes it easier.

MORGAN: You've never got married. But now we're on the verge of the romantic apocalypse, aren't we? You -- you are now heading to the altar?

COWELL: Where are you getting your language from today?

MORGAN: I'm on CNN now. I use -- I use long words.

COWELL: Yes, but Piers, we -- I -- you -- you and I knew each other as friends. Boudoir -- sex god.

MORGAN: Are you going to the royal wedding?

COWELL: I haven't been invited.

MORGAN: No. Nor have I.

COWELL: No. Why is that?

MORGAN: I have no idea. You'd think the amount of tourism we'd bring.

COWELL: I thought that as well. And we'd be fun guests.

MORGAN: What do you think of William and Kate?

COWELL: I don't know William. But I've met Harry. And I've got to tell you, just top, top guy. Really, really funny, like a normal bloke, great sense of humor. I really, really was impressed with Harry.

MORGAN: I've met William a few times. And he's a -- he's a real strong character. You -- think what they've been through, those boys. I mean, you and I remember Diana's funeral, and--


MORGAN: -- watching these terrible scenes. And I think one of the reasons this royal wedding is getting so much attention and excitement is it's the first joyous royal occasion since Diana died.

COWELL: That's a good point.

MORGAN: And it's -- and it's her boy.


MORGAN: I can't believe in America they're going crazy for it, aren't they?

COWELL: Yes, well you think -- I -- I can remember those awful shots as the two of them, you know, on -- on -- on the funeral. And now -- you're quite right. Now you're seeing him getting married. And he seems like a really, really nice guy. She's cute.

MORGAN: Are you a monarchist?


MORGAN: Do you believe in the institution of monarchy, unelected?

COWELL: I -- I -- I do -- certainly for our own country I do, because I think it -- it's just something which -- which makes us unique. You know, I mean, they -- they are good people. They're not chopping heads off any more or stuff like that. Their values are good. They seem like very, very nice people. And it makes us different -- special.

MORGAN: When we come back, I'm going to ask you -- you don't sing, you don't dance, you don't do impressions. You don't really do anything, do you? What is your talent? COWELL: Piers?




MORGAN: So Simon, this is the conundrum with you. You are the number one -- well, arguably number one, possibly number two talent show judge in the world. You're number one, right? You're the master of the art of judging people.

And yet when you actually look at you and your own repertoire of talent, it is hard to put our finger precisely on where it lies. I mean, do you sing?


MORGAN: Do you dance?

COWELL: Not well.

MORGAN: Do you do impressions?

COWELL: Badly.

MORGAN: Can you act?


MORGAN: Can you do trapeze acts?


MORGAN: Juggling?

COWELL: Managed that a few times.

MORGAN: Fire eating?

COWELL: At times. I know your point --


MORGAN: If you were coming on "America's Got Talent" --


MORGAN: -- which is one of your shows--

COWELL: Well, I wouldn't--

MORGAN: -- what would you declare as your talent, if you had to?

COWELL: Well, I wouldn't. MORGAN: Or paying of death, what would you say you -- was your talent?

COWELL: I'm good at spotting somebody else's talent.

MORGAN: Apart from that, what is the -- what is the tangible talent?

COWELL: That's it. That -- you don't need anything else.

MORGAN: You wouldn't get through the first round with that.

COWELL: Well, I wouldn't try.

MORGAN: Yes, but if you had to?

COWELL: Oh, no. You're missing your own point, Piers.

MORGAN: I'm not.

COWELL: No, you see I know the point you're trying to make. You're saying you can only spot talent if you're talented.

MORGAN: No. I'm not saying that.

COWELL: Yes, you are.

MORGAN: I'm just saying you are involved in the talent show genre at a high level.


MORGAN: If you had to produce your own talent, do you have a secret one we don't know about?

COWELL: High diving.

MORGAN: What is the X-Factor?

COWELL: Well, we called it the X-Factor, because I thought "Good Singer Factor" was a terrible name for a show, you know? And I think nowadays, I think somebody like Lady Gaga defines exactly what we're looking for. Because she is -- she's out there on her own right now.

MORGAN: She's incredible.

COWELL: Well, she's -- A -- she's super talented, very musical. But she's -- she's interesting, and she's worked it all out for herself. You never get the feeling somebody is controlling her. She decided one day, "I'm just going to put a lobster on my head, and -- and people will like it.

I like the fact that she's different. And I'm not -- she's not the best looking person in the world. She's not the best singer in the world, but she is a total, utter star.

And that is an example of what the X-Factor is. I'm not looking for good looking singer only. You know, you want somebody different.

MORGAN: When you see Justin Bieber -- well, I met him for the first time the other night--

COWELL: He's cool, right?

MORGAN: He's this high.


MORGAN: He's 16 --

COWELL: And with a swagger.

MORGAN: Had a real swagger.


MORGAN: Very polite boy. Stood up and said, "Hello, sir." Introduced me to his girlfriend and stuff. I was very impressed by his poise. Because I watched his movie, and fascinating. I mean, this boy gets --


MORGAN: -- modern culture --


MORGAN: -- in a way that I don't think a guy of twice his age would ever understand.

COWELL: Totally. No. No. Funny enough, I actually want kids who come on our show to educate me; not the other way around. I don't want to tell a 15 or 14 year old what they should be doing. I want them to tell me. And that's what I got when I met Justin Bieber for the first time.

MORGAN: What do you make of him?

COWELL: I think he's -- I think he's really talented, really musical. I think he's super smart. I think he's worked it out at a very young age. He's got a brilliant person looking after him in terms of management. His -- his record executive, L.A. Reid, one of the best in the world.

They're a great team. And I also like the fact on this show you could find a 50, 60 year old singer who for whatever reason lost his or her chance, and wants another crack at the big time.

I mean, you and I have experienced it with Susan Boyle.

MORGAN: I mean, I was going to say we had that extraordinary moment. In fact, we can play a quick clip from that now of Susan Boyle.


COWELL: Can't we have this part)?


COWELL: And how old are you, Susan?


MORGAN: What are you going to sing tonight?

BOYLE: I'm going to sing "I Dreamed A Dream" from "Les Miserables."



MORGAN: That moment -- that moment was quite extraordinary. And I -- and the reason--

COWELL: Well, I knew it the second --


MORGAN: Of course.


MORGAN: -- I had a feeling --


MORGAN: You didn't know it, Simon, because you turned to me and you were laughing, and I was laughing as well.

COWELL: I know.

MORGAN: And we both thought this was a preposterous moment where this little old lady from -- or middle aged lady from Scotland was just going to come on and be a complete train wreck, didn't we?

COWELL: I know.

MORGAN: And we were humbled.

COWELL: Sixteen million records later.

MORGAN: Wasn't it amazing?

COWELL: Yes. No. No, genuinely. I mean, this idea that you've got to look a certain look, that you've got to be a certain age is ridiculous. The music business today spans -- you've got Willow Smith at 12. You've got Susan Boyle at 46. You've got groups in the middle selling millions and millions of records. And this show has to reflect that. It has to look -- it has to be like the music business essentially is. There are no rules. You can't put boundaries around it. You can't say, "if you're over 28, you can't have a hit." I mean, it's -- it's crazy.

MORGAN: Has Susan Boyle changed the rules of the music industry almost single handedly?

COWELL: Well, no record company you know would have signed her if she'd have -- you know, she wouldn't have got an appointment, you know? It would have been somebody who keeps submitting tapes, you know, in the mail. And -- she would never have got a deal.

MORGAN: What do you say to people -- I mean, the -- the other day, the top 100 albums in America. Number one, Susan Boyle with her second album. Number two, Jackie Evancho, a 10 year old girl from "America's Got Talent."


MORGAN: Certain people out there, and you -- you know, you've seen the criticism -- will say that you have single handedly destroyed the music industry.

COWELL: Absolute rubbish. Rubbish. I mean, it has no affect at all. Look, it doesn't matter whether you've got a top 100 or a top 200. You know, what you want is people back into stores buying music. I mean, how can that be a bad thing?

MORGAN: Elton John gave you a bit of a whack the other day.

COWELL: What did he say?

MORGAN: He said -- similar kind of thing. Saying that it was very hard for anything outside of mainstream music to get a hit record now.

COWELL: Well, look, this is somebody who charges what -- a million dollars a private gig? Two million dollars, you know? I don't know whether he's concerned about himself -- maybe it is. But I -- but -- they always bleat on that we're not giving other people a chance.

And I always want to say to them, "I tell you what, you just made a million dollars off -- off your last private gig. Go and give it to a bunch of young musicians you care about, put them in the studio. Go and nurture them. Go and spend some time looking after them. Then I'll buy your argument.

They -- they're only worried about themselves.

MORGAN: Does any part of you -- you're being very --


COWELL: I'm not bitter about this at all. MORGAN: Of course. Clearly hit a nerve.

COWELL: Why do they say bad things about me?

MORGAN: We're going to come back after another short break. And I'm going to ask you more secrets including who are the judges going to be on X-Factor.

COWELL: And I'm going to tell you exclusively.





COWELL: I'm going to say yes.


MORGAN: That's Simon Cowell's X-Factor from Britain, which is coming here in the fall. Simon, what does the winner get? Excite me.

COWELL: Well, they always get a recording contract, obviously. But I've gone a little bit further this time, Piers?

MORGAN: Go on.

COWELL: I'm going to give them five million dollars.

MORGAN: Really?


MORGAN: Five million?

COWELL: Five million.



MORGAN: Is that -- that must be the biggest--

COWELL: What -- what do you get on "America's Got Talent?"

MORGAN: A million.

COWELL: Quite a bit bigger.

MORGAN: That's your show as well?

COWELL: No, I know.

MORGAN: Kill the golden goose. But that's a -- that's a staggering sum of money.

COWELL: Yes, because -- the -- the point was cause everyone kept saying to me, you know, are you convinced you're going to find a star through the process. And I -- I wouldn't have done this show unless I believed I could. And then to -- and I sat in a meeting with all of my producers that said, "What do you want to give as a prize apart from the recording contract?"

We came up with these really boring ideas. And I said, "Do you know what? Let's make a point here. Give them five million dollars. It's never been done before. And that will put some pressure on us -- certainly put some pressure on you, the producers, to find me someone decent."

MORGAN: The X-Factor in Britain has generated 100 million dollars worth of record sales, produced 90 hit records, and produced world wide stars like Leona Lewis and others. Do you think you're going to get the same kind of success in America?

COWELL: I don't think that shows in general have produced enough global stars, if I'm being honest with you. I think you always get local winners. And that's part of the reason why, you know, I've -- I've put this kind of money down on the table. And you'll see when my judging panel is announced the kind of team I'm putting behind me, is that I am really, really taking this seriously.

MORGAN: And what about a host?

COWELL: We're looking.

MORGAN: I was wondering if you've chosen one yet?

COWELL: Yes, Piers.

MORGAN: Have you?

COWELL: I've got an idea. I'm going to have two.

MORGAN: Really?

COWELL: Yes. Yes. I think these shows need two.

MORGAN: So that was the original way that they did "Idol," of course.

COWELL: Yes. Yes, we had two.


MORGAN: And this is the way that "Britain's Got Talent" -- a very successful duo there. So be -- it's going to be two people?


MORGAN: Are they American?

COWELL: Yes. Yes.

MORGAN: Two American -- man, woman?

COWELL: I think so. Yes. A guy and a girl, yes.

MORGAN: So that's a departure. That's different to "Idol," where your friend Ryan runs the show there.

COWELL: Yes. Yes. I -- I'm not doing it just to be different. I actually like being on shows with two hosts. I think it's funnier, because they have more confidence.

MORGAN: When do you think you'll give up judging? Have you thought about it?

COWELL: Well, I think I'm good at it, Piers. You know, I think I'm good at steering a show. I think that's what I'm best at doing. And I think I'm -- that's what I'm best at. So for the moment I'm good at it.

MORGAN: You could just go on and on, couldn't you? Like I said --

COWELL: Well, I -- I -- you know, I see myself producing long term and let somebody else do it. I mean, I've just started to do that in the U.K., where I've come off these shows, and -- and I'm producing them. And I must admit, I do love it. I love producing shows.

MORGAN: But could you imagine not being center stage?

COWELL: Well, I can see it happening less and less, you know? In -- in terms of you don't have to do the whole series. You could just do the odd show. I quite like the idea of that eventually I think.

MORGAN: Well, Simon, I'm excited by it. I think X-Factor in Britain is a huge show. But more importantly, how do people enter? They're watching. How can they join in the X-Factor party in America?

COWELL: Well -- well, we start in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena. You just turn up.

MORGAN: These are without the judges, right?

COWELL: These are without the judges.

MORGAN: So how many cities are you doing the -- the -- the pre --

COWELL: We're doing six cities in total. If you go on FOX.COM; on your website, CNN, it will have all the cities, all the dates. I would say to anybody who's -- who -- who wants to be -- who wants to do well, you know, this is a five million dollar audition.

You know, you've got to look the part. You've got to stand out from the crowd. You've got to sing something different to what we've heard before. But practice.

And if you're not in a group, put together a group with your mates. I've seen this happen before. You know, form a vocal group. And maybe we could find the next "Glee." But you know, prepare yourself.

MORGAN: Are you nervous?

COWELL: Yes. Yes. But in a good way.

MORGAN: I wish you every success. I really do.

COWELL: Do you really?

MORGAN: Not really.

COWELL: Oh, I thought so.

MORGAN: I -- I wish you a little less success than I'm going to be enjoying.

COWELL: Well, that would be a disaster.

MORGAN: Simon Cowell --

COWELL: No, seriously.

MORGAN: -- thank you.

COWELL: A disaster.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Piers goes one on one with Russell Brand.

MORGAN: When most husbands, though -- the idea of their mother in law writing a book fills them with horror. Are you slightly apprehensive this might happen?

RUSSELL BRAND, ACTOR: No, because what could be left to be said about me? They know I'm a junkie. They know the way I carried on with women. They know I've been in trouble with the police. They know the ridiculous things I've said and done.

I've apologized for all of them. I've -- there's no more skeletons in my closet. I live in a haunted house.


MORGAN: That's all for tonight, thank goodness. And now here's my colleague, Anderson Cooper, with "AC 360."